Baker Mayfield has the Johnny Manziel complex. By that we mean he’s a smallish quarterback who compensates with elusiveness and a big mouth. When Mayfield is on the field, in a room or near a microphone, chances are his voice will be the one that rises above the din.
Of course, this is why the Cleveland Browns love him and why just about everyone else in the NFL can barely tolerate him. He can be abrasively outspoken, not afraid to speak what he believes to be the truth.
If you play with him, you consider it leadership. If you play against him, you’ll take a facemask penalty on third-and-20 just for the fun of it.
This personality trait in not a new thing. He was like this in high school and college, particularly at the University of Oklahoma where he won the Heisman Trophy in 2017. Mayfield figured people were too quick to dismiss him because of his size (5-feet-10), so he took the initiative and spoke up before he was spoken down to.
Mayfield’s persona was on display again this week when he appeared on an ESPN radio station in Norman, Okla. – Sportstalk 1400. And this time he took on a college kid. He was asked about all the excitement surrounding the University of Texas football program this offseason.
You know, there is no greater rivalry in college football than Texas-Oklahoma, known around those parts as the “Red River Showdown.” Think Michigan-Ohio State with big, shiny belt buckles. That’s Longhorns vs. Sooners.
“They said the same thing when they beat Notre Dame a couple of years ago, and they won like three games after that,” Mayfield said. “I’m sick of that crap.”
Mayfield’s dislike of Texas football seems to center on Longhorns quarterback Sam Ehlinger. They both were Texas high schools stars, but Ehlinger played for Westlake and Mayfield for Lake Travis. And they are big rivals.
They played against each other in college in 2017. Oklahoma won.
“He couldn’t beat Lake Travis, so I don’t really care [about] his opinion on winning,” Mayfield said. “Westlake is a great program, but the two best quarterbacks to come out of there are Drew Brees and Nick Foles. Sam can stay down there in Texas.
“That will stir the pot. … He doesn’t like me and I hope he knows I don’t like him either.”
Mayfield’s teams split the four games they played against Texas in his career. He lost when he was a freshman at Texas Tech and as a sophomore at Oklahoma. The Sooners won in his junior and senior seasons.
In the 2017 win – Oklahoma 29, Texas 24 – Mayfield was 17-of-27 for 302 yards and two touchdown passes. Ehlinger was 19-of-39 for 278 yards, one TD pass and one rushing TD.
Last season, this time dealing with 2018 Heisman winner Kyler Murray, Ehlinger split two games, the Sooners beating Texas to win the Big 12 Championship.
You have to remember something about Mayfield: He is not afraid to criticize even his own coaches and teammates. His negative feeling for former Browns coach Hue Jackson surfaced when the Browns played the Cincinnati Bengals after Jackson was dismissed as head coach and joined the Bengals staff.
And just a week ago, Mayfield took on Browns halfback Duke Johnson for trying to force the organization to trade him.
“That’s something that we’ve been dealing with for a while,” Mayfield told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “If we have guys that want to be here, they’ll show that, they’ll voice that. Obviously he’s going to handle his stuff how he wants, but you’re either on this train or you’re not, it’s moving. You can get out of the way or you can join us. So it is what it is.”
“I wouldn’t say I’m not happy about it. It’s just the way he’s handled it. It can be a stir-up in the media, it can be however it wants, but if somebody wants to be here, they’ll be here in that situation. You’ve got guys within our locker room that are dying to get playing time, that are dying to be here, and I get it….”
Many of Mayfield’s teammates reportedly were not pleased with what Mayfield said and called him out in the privacy of the team’s locker room.
“I hope he understands and feels that guys are here for him, whether he is here or not, that the relationship goes beyond the player, the person as well,” Browns receiver Jarvis Landry said of Johnson. “So I definitely hope he understands that and knows that there are guys that are here for him.
This could very well be a huge season for the Browns, one of the NFL’s new cool teams. It’s going to be fascinating to see if Mayfield will be able to dial down his outspoken nature in times of distress. But it will be just as entertaining to hear what he says after this year’s Texas-Oklahoma game.